Stampede Reservoir Started as a Preserver for Cui-ui, But It’s Become a Haven for The California Angler’s Favorite Fish
If you like High Sierra lakes, Stampede Reservoir deserves your attention. Stampede is located on the Truckee River about 15 miles northeast of the town of Truckee (on Interstate 80). It’s a high elevation lake – about 6,000 feet. Three other excellent nearby fishing lakes – Boca Reservoir, Prosser Creek Reservoir, and Donner make Stampede a favored base camp for people looking to take an extended vacation.
Stampede offers four trout species – rainbow, browns, brook and lake trout (mackinaw), as well as kokanee salmon. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife routinely plants 10-12 inch rainbow trout. Lake trout and kokanee fingerlings are also planted by the thousands each season. The lake is well known for the size of the trophy brown trout it produces.
Kokanees and lake trout tend to hold in the deeper water during the warmer months – about 70 to 80 feet. Jigging and trolling are the preferred tactics for fishing at that depth.
Stampede also has a decent population of smallmouth bass, usually found suspended along shelves in the Davis Creek arm.
The reservoir has about 25 miles of shoreline, and a water surface of approximately 226,500 acre-feet when full. In recent years the water has been much lower than that; water is often drawn down to support Boca Reservoir and the Truckee River. Low water levels can make boating a challenge. Vehicles can get stuck in the sand driving down to the water to shore fish or launch car toppers.
Because of the low water, shore fishing is often the way to go. Rainbow trout fishing from the bank is usually good, thanks to the planting program. Go with power bait, salmon eggs, or casting spinners or spoons. Big browns are sometimes caught from the bank, particularly with night crawlers.
Stampede Reservoir is open year round and normally freezes over during the winter, making it popular for ice fishing. Fly fishing is best right after the ice breaks up in the spring and fish come into shallower water for food. In the fall the northern shoreline – fed by several springs – can be productive.
The area surrounding the reservoir is largely undeveloped, giving it a wilderness ambiance, but there are campgrounds, including Emigrant Group campground and Logger Campground off Dog Valley road on the southern side of the lake. A paved road at the Logger Campground offers easy fishing access. There is an access road to the boat ramp off Dog Valley. No camping or campfires are allowed outside the campgrounds.
Interestingly, unlike most California reservoirs, Stampede was not constructed primarily for flood control or water storage, but rather to help the spawning of the critically endangered cui-ui, a large suckerfish.
Directions: From Truckee take Interstate 80 east for six miles to the Hirschdale exit. Go north and under I-80 for approximately one mile to Boca Reservoir. Continue north past Boca Reservoir for approximately 8 miles. Access campgrounds and boat ramp by taking a left onto 261 Road and crossing Stampede Dam. Continue one mile west to the campground. Go another mile west and take the paved road to the right to Stampede Reservoir boat ramp.
For more information see the USDA Forest Service website.